As Christmas approaches, I am entering another year of purposely downplaying the holidays. I know, call me a Grinch if you want, but I bet my Christmas is way more relaxing than yours. This idea that holidays are the end-all be-all of everyone’s life has always rankled. My dad is notorious for disliking almost all holidays—not the idea of the celebration (except for Mother’s and Father’s Day, in his mind these were made exclusively for selling crap and making kids and parents alike feel terrible), but the way they have been hijacked by marketeers and mothers intent on torturing everyone with picture perfect spectacles that no mortal can match. In reality, except for astronomical events (solstices, meteor showers, eclipses) there is nothing TO celebrate that is real. It’s all made up. Except birthdays. Those are real, but after thirty, celebrating that I was one year older didn’t really make me all that happy.
Katie likes to joke that every day is Christmas, and in our family this is kind of true. We buy what we need and occasionally you get something special. While she was growing up, I made sure every holiday was celebrated, decorations, food, gifts, etc. I wore myself down trying to live up to whatever expectations I placed on myself. We all bring our personal baggage to this process, my ex and I were no exception. There was the annual holiday light fight, the drunken July 4th, the disappointing Valentine’s days, but there was also lots of fun. We made our own traditions and enjoyed them a great deal, until we didn’t. Life changes, and if you’re not ready to roll with that, holidays amplify those changes, both good and bad.
Six years ago, after my mom died, I didn’t feel like celebrating. My marriage was going downhill fast, Katie was gone, and there was nothing we needed. Oddly enough, it was a good Christmas. By not trying to live up to what I expected of myself, what marketeers, songs, and movies told me I should want, the day was quiet. We hiked, had a nice breakfast. We opened the few presents we got, everyone was content.
After I got divorced and started graduate school, the holidays were quiet by choice. All of them. Halloween, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Let’s not even talk about Valentine’s Day, my least favorite holiday of all. I’m not against holidays, I have simply discovered that there are many ways to celebrate (or not). If it was hard on Katie, she didn’t let on. In fact, she swears that she is quite happy with the way things are. We sneak off to the museum on an off day, buy each other a puzzle and have lunch. We buy our few Christmas gifts on Cyber Monday and wrap them together (Katie is a world-class gift wrapper). We are extremely close, and no declaration on holidays will alter that one way or the other.
Last year, I spent Christmas Day alone, sick with Lyme. It was no big deal, at least not to me. My dad certainly understood. Katie worked. She has worked the last three Christmases and Thanksgivings. Why not? We just pick another day to do our dinners, open our presents. The day is designated by us, not the calendar. Most people just can’t believe that I am satisfied with this arrangement. It’s kind of like my drinking friends can’t believe I don’t care much for drinking. I don’t care. At this stage in my life (almost post-Lyme, fingers crossed!), I can do whatever the hell I want. This includes not eating all the food people foist on you at each and every holiday, not dressing up in costumes, not buying unnecessary gifts, or sending cards (sorry, I’ve been bad at that since forever! But I don’t mind if I’m off your list…). What I’d really like for Christmas is to be well. What I’d like for any day is to be well. I’d also like to never hear “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” ever again, but we can’t always get what we want.
This is not an indictment of the way you celebrate holidays, nor is it an endorsement of the way I celebrate mine. I’m happy with the way things are right now. Like all things, it will change. Until then, this year is a music year. Bring on the Christmas carols! On Christmas day, however, I just may go eat Chinese food, and if I feel good, it will be the most wonderful day of the year.